My wife recently wrote a short paper on internet safety in the home specifically as it relates to the iPhone. I wanted to share her post here:
I am very passionate about this, so I hope this long explanation isn’t over the top! These are just my opinions. My plan may not be perfect, but it is a start. Everyone has to decide what is best for their family.
I try to do everything in my power to keep temptations behind a wall of security. I prefer to make access to pornography very difficult to help protect my boys from their natural curiosity. I try to safeguard them until they are adults and can safeguard themselves. I also recognize that if teenage boys really want to find something, they will probably find a way. Even with restrictions, I must be honest and admit we have still had issues with pornography. This plan isn’t foolproof. They share phones with friends. We must talk to our kids about what they are seeing all the time. Try to answer all their questions and don’t hold back. I’d rather have an awkward conversation about sex than have my boys go search Google or YouTube for answers. Teach them why pornography is dangerous and addictive.
Jason S. Carroll, a professor of family life at BYU, stated, “The brain stem, which houses the pleasure centers of the brain, develops first. Only later do the reasoning and decision-making abilities in the frontal cortex fully develop. So kids have the gas pedal without the full brake.”
Joy D. Jones, Primary General President said, “I am concerned that many parents may not yet realize how dangerous pornography really is or may think it’s only a problem for the boy next door. Reality is, this problem is affecting our boys and our girls and we’re not talking about it enough.
In today’s world, I see many parents handing their child a snake. I am speaking of smartphones.
I recently spoke with a youth leader whose opinion was that ‘putting a cell phone with an internet connection into the pocket of a young person is like placing a hot coal in their pocket—they will get burned.’ We cannot put cell phones with internet access into the hands of young children who aren’t old enough to have been sufficiently taught, do not yet have necessary reasoning and decision-making abilities, and who don’t have parental controls and other tools to help protect them. Every phone should have safeguards, even teens. This is also good counsel for adults. No one is immune to the bite of a poisonous snake.” https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/joy-jones-keynote-address-utah-coalition-against-pornography-conference-2018
In our family, we do let our boys have iPhones. The parental controls on iPhones seem to really work. I don’t let them have Safari. And I am the only one who can install apps. I don’t let them have YouTube. I personally believe internet use and social media should be out in the open on a computer where others can see…and not in the pocket of a teenage boy. (I do still allow GroupMe since that is how their youth leaders communicate with them.) What most people don’t realize is how much bullying and porn and garbage is on social media, such as Instagram. Social media is highly addictive and the constant comparing to peers can really be too much for a teenager’s emotional health. I have found that if my boys access social media on a home computer instead of on their phone, they won’t spend as much time on it. This KSL news story about social media use in middle school is shocking. Every parent should watch this 3 minute video! https://www.ksl.com/?sid=46278943&nid=148
I keep the computers and iPads in the house password protected and make sure they are turned off whenever I’m not at home. I have parental controls on the Smart TV and Xbox. I also don’t give my boys our wifi password. I enter it into their device for them. I have heard you can set up parental controls on the router itself. I admit I still haven’t figured this out yet! I check their phones randomly and read their texts so that I have a sense of how things are going with their friends and can talk to them about that too.
Here is a checklist of the iPhone settings I use:
Go to Settings>General>Restrictions
Setup parental controls with a password
Turn off Safari
Turn off iTunes Store
Turn off Installing Apps
Allowed Content: Change all ratings to desired level.
*Important! Allowed Content: Click Websites and then choose Specific Websites Only. (This is different than the Safari setting!) It will default to a handful of Apple approved websites. Delete these by clicking the X on each one, then add in any websites you are 100% comfortable with. I usually keep lds.org and Skyward for school. If you don’t do this, they will be able to open links sent through texts and emails. Teenagers are very savvy with this loophole because most parents turn off Safari, but don’t know about this setting. Also, if you ever disable restrictions completely (when setting up a new phone, or if it acts glitchy, etc.) then this setting gets cleared and allows all websites again. Don’t forget to go back and update this setting. In my opinion, clicking “Limit Adult Websites” is not sufficient.
*Important! Allow Changes: Click Accounts and then choose Don’t Allow Changes. This is also very important or else they can add new accounts that you don’t know about or have access to. It is common for teenagers to have private accounts their parents don’t know about.